Early in 2012 Captain Michael Barritt, President of the Hakluyt Society, had met with fellow members in the National Library of Australia in Canberra. Amongst the ideas that they discussed for raising the profile of the Society and linking members across the vast continent was a contribution to this year’s programme of events to mark the bicentenary of the death of Captain Matthew Flinders. Their plan came to fruition this November when Captain Barritt returned to Australia with Professor Kenneth Morgan, editor of the forthcoming scholarly edition of Flinders’s journals from the circumnavigation in HMS Investigator. Together they completed a sequence of presentations introducing the book in the context of the Society’s history of publications of accounts of travel and exploration in the region.
The programme began in Canberra where the Society’s International Representative for Australia, Dr Martin Woods, had arranged for Professor Morgan to be interviewed on local radio, achieving excellent publicity. On the afternoon of 6 November Dr Woods convened another happy gathering of members in the National Library, including Frank Wheatley and his wife Barbara who had travelled all the way from West Australia. After discussions with the President, the group convened to the Maps Reading Room to view some of the library’s treasures, carefully chosen by Dr Woods for their relevance to the work of Matthew Flinders. Finally the members were joined by an enthusiastic audience for the formal presentations in the library’s lecture room. Proof copies of the book were available for inspection during the reception that followed. They commanded much interest.
Early the following morning Captain and Mrs Barritt and Professor Morgan set off for Adelaide to be in place for a special session in the Fridays at the Library programme run jointly by Flinders University and the Friends of the State Library of South Australia. Here another enthusiastic audience was introduced to the forthcoming publication. The seminar continued with fascinating lectures from Professor John West-Scooby, Dr Dany Bréelle, and Dr Danielle Clode on aspects of the voyages of Flinders and his contemporary Baudin. The excellent arrangements, master-minded by Dr Gillian Dooley, included a fine display by Australiana Publications, the publishing arm of the Friends of the Library.
On 12 November the formal programme was completed with an evening presentation in the State Library of New South Wales, attended by another lively audience of enthusiasts. They were welcomed by Maggie Patton, manager of the library’s special collections, who also chaired an excellent question and answer session. During the subsequent reception there was an opportunity not just to view the proofs of the Hakluyt Society volume but also pertinent documents from the Mitchell Library collection, including Flinders’ rough journals.
Captain Barritt was delighted to have the opportunity to meet many long-standing members, some others now returning to the fold, and some new recruits. The programme matched his desire to engage with the Hakluyt Society family that ‘compasses the Vaste Globe’ and to promote events further afield than London.